Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Vegas and Versailles: Thomas Calvocoressi Thinks It's Time for a Reappraisal of a Brave, Playful Era

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Vegas and Versailles: Thomas Calvocoressi Thinks It's Time for a Reappraisal of a Brave, Playful Era

Article excerpt

Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-90

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Victoria and Albert Museum, London SW7

In 1972, following the demolition of the notoriously run-down, igsos-era Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St Louis, the architect Charles lencks declared the death of modernism and the birth of something new and provocative: "After all, since it is fairly dead, we might as well enjoy picking over its corpse," Jencks said.

Postmodernist architecture's legacy, though, is gargantuan, mirror-glass shopping malls in the Gulf states; nightmarish, marble-clad Singaporean office complexes and curvy ego-architecture. So, while 1980s fashion has been rehashed ad nauseam, it's little wonder that, in design, the past decade has been all about a return to the clean lines, mid-century furniture, utility and function-over-form ideals espoused by Le Corbusier and co. All that jokey, brash, shiny po-mo stuff seems rather frivolous and embarrassing: too yuppie, too Maggie, too soon.

Maybe, but it would be a shame to dismiss two decades of style because of what it became. Po-mo is a slippery fish--both high and low culture, at once mired in the critical theory of Derrida and Foucault and obsessed with Mickey Mouse and MTV ("Vegas and Versailles"). Whether you loathe or love the hybrid "brico-lage" architecture of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown or the gloriously cartoonish furniture of Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis group, as the V&A's exhibition shows, the po-mo way of thinking permeated every strand of our culture. The subversion, colour, chaos and humour that the postmodernists brought back into design, art and fashion were a welcome tonic to the grey, grim 1970s--indeed, there's nothing po-faced about po-mo. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.